Marketing Translation Blunders

Brand Marketing Translation Blunders

By Gemma Giuliano
Head of Marketing, Lingmo International

Marketing translation blunders are not new and have happened for years, even the big brands fall victim to this. With companies competing to be the first to market with a brand in a new country, sometimes their eagerness fails with marketing mistranslations. This is usually because they haven’t spent the time to check the logo or slogan meaning relative to that region.   Slogans that work in one language may not always translate well in another language. With big business spending millions of dollars on advertising, some do not give a thought to what the slogan may mean in the country they are advertising in. 

When companies expand into new international markets it is essential contextual translation is used, not just literal word for word translation. Here are some brand marketing translation fails that have soiled brand reputations and show that translation isn’t always as easy as it seems.

Funny Marketing Translation Blunders

HSBC Bank made the classic mistake of literally translating their campaign slogan ‘Assume Nothing’ into multiple languages. Unfortunately, this translated into a meaning of ‘Do Nothing’ and cost the bank $10 million in global re-branding to correct the mistake.

KFC learnt the hard way when they entered the Chinses market. Their well-known slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good’ was mistranslated into Mandarin as “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

Marketing Translation Blunders_KFC

Pepsi tried to market its beverage in Taiwan with the slogan ‘Come Alive with Pepsi’. However, in Chinese this translates as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave!’.

When the ‘Schweppes Tonic Water’ campaign entered the Italian market, it completely failed. The company’s product name was literally translated into Italian as “Schweppes Toilet Water.”

Braniff Airlines launched a campaign about their new leather seats, ‘Fly in leather’. This was translated into Spanish as ‘Vuela en cuero’, however in Mexican, it meant ‘Fly naked’.

Lost in Translation

This really highlights that apart from embarrassing and costly mistakes, translation needs to be given more thought.  Not being able to connect with your consumers because of a translation blunder can seriously affect your brand.

Be mindful of Cultural Differences

Business is about communicating with people and building long fruitful relationships.  Each company has a product or service to offer and it is up to that brand to convince the consumer to buy it. To do this right you need to do you research to find your target audience but also understand the culture of the target country too. It’s imperative to understand any differences or any sensitive areas that your brand could potentially violate.

Essential Translation

Translation solutions do not need to be a chore, painful, time consuming or expensive. Language translation can be used to localise content, build relationships and understand the cultural perspectives.  Being able to communicate directly in a stakeholder’s native language will also help your business flourish and grow, and offer that all important competitive advantage. Investing in a translation solution allows your business to communicate with your foreign speaking target audience. After all, consumers would rather buy a product if content is in their native language. 

Brands that got it right

While we have seen some epic brand translation blunders, some brands did get it right when scaling their products into new international markets.

One example is “Guilty” by Gucci Perfume: 古驰 “罪爱”
One of the cleverest brand names around sees this translation not only stay loyal to the pronunciation of the original brand name but also capture the meaning of the word “Guilty.” In Chinese “罪” means “guilt” and “爱” means “love”, so “Guilty Love’.

It is difficult enough marketing in your home market let alone a foreign market where there are multiple languages to contend with. Lingmo’s customised translation solutions allow you to create a unique voice that differentiates your brand in every market without losing your core values.

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